Science

Tarantula spider seen munching on opossum in the Amazon. Wait, what?

Tarantula spider seen munching on opossum in the Amazon. Wait, what?”

Researchers checked in with an opossum expert at American Museum of Natural History and confirmed they captured the first documentation of a large mygalomorph spider preying on an opossum. The paper detailed the team's observed interactions in the Amazon over the past several years between small vertebrates and arthropods.

"These are not common events to observe, period".

Researchers studying interactions between predators and their prey in the Amazon rainforest spotted one encounter with a giant spider that'll leave arachnophobes trembling.

Tarantulas don't typically feed on opossum, according to arachnologist Rick West, who wasn't a member of the research team.

"They're large active predators and so they're out hunting all the time", Rabosky said.

Researchers said the tarantula (genus Pamphobeteus) was the size of a dinner plate, while the young mouse opossum was about the size of a softball.

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"Invertebrates preying on vertebrates is common, but it's generally not assumed to be an important source of mortality for amphibians and reptiles", said von May, a biologist at the University of MI. "In reality, we fear animals like spiders because they just seem so different to us - they really pose no danger, and they are super important parts of their ecosystems". The opossum was still struggling weakly even with the tarantula grasping its neck then, but it eventually stopped kicking after about 30 seconds.

"We're trying to collect data as frantically as we can to at least get a snapshot of what's going on now, so we can understand future impacts", he said. Their main focus has been reptiles and amphibians, but according to Michigan News, they've seen some insane stuff out there over the last several years - like a centipede big enough to kill a snake and a giant tarantula carrying off a small opossum.

The spider that killed the opossum had a body that's bigger than a baseball, and that doesn't count the legs.

Grundler's sister Maggie pulled out her cellphone and shot photos and some video. "But it is a special human bias that leads us to think that this is somehow freakier than many other ways of dying: there is nothing pretty about most predation, whether it is coming from lions or peregrine falcons or crocodiles or anything else". They are both co-authors of the paper. "Everyone is very excited about this sort of stuff", he said.

"One of the coolest things about working in Peru is the sheer number of species that you encounter every day simply by walking in the forest", said Larson, who studies the evolution of diet in frogs.



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